ARMIN BUCHTERKIRCH (1859 - 1919?) was an American Impressionist painter and illustrator, known primarily for his highly-regarded watercolours of the American south and the Caribbean, particularly the Bahamas. Many significant details about his personal history remain shrouded in mystery, most notably the date of his death and the extent of his travels. The art historical record shows inconclusive proof regarding whether or not Buchterkirch visited Bermuda over the course of his career. And, as new facts on this Artist surface, there remains the intriguing possibility that heretofore unknown Bermuda-related Works of Art from his oeuvre may someday surface in the public marketplace.
Buchterkirch was born in Corning, New York on November 25, 1859. He studied art in New York City and is believed to have also studied in Munich, Germany. He lived and worked in both Corning and Rochester (New York) for most of his career. Winters were spent in an array of warmer climates, such as California, Florida, and the Caribbean. The subjects of his work were many and varied, including coastal and shoreline views; marine, maritime, and nautical motifs; tropical and backcountry landscapes and gardens; street scenes; portraits; and illustrations. His depictions of the villages and countryside of the Bahamas are now considered a valuable artistic and historical record of these islands at the turn of the Twentieth Century. Buchterkirch’s exploration of the effects of colors within shifting bands of light and shade make much of his work a prime example of American Impressionist painting during this period. Some of his more notable coastal and marine-based works include Nassau, Bahamas; Tropical Sunset, Bahaman Islands; Bahamas Beach; Coastal View with Distant Sailboats; and Bahama Islands(this last painting featuring a unique, aquamarine tint). His backcountry landscape and village scenes are well-represented by works such as Sunlight and Shade, Bahamas; A Day in Southern Life; A Village Street in the Bahamas; Woman Carrying a Basket of Fruit on her Head; Stream Scene with Canoe and Cottage; Seneca Park, and American Falls from Canadian Side (The latter two produced in Buchterkirch’s native Finger Lakes, New York region).
Research undertaken in 2010 by Wayne Atherholt, who at the time was Executive Director of the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Daytona Beach, Florida (and is currently Director of Cultural Affairs and International Relations for the city of St. Petersburg, Florida), has played a pivotal role in uncovering the discrepancies in the historical record regarding Buchterkirch. While proofreading the labels for an exhibition at the museum entitledReflections: Paintings of Florida: 1865-1965 (Buchterkirch’s painting, Key Largo,ca.1900, was displayed at the exhibition), Atherholt used genealogical sources he had employed previously to glean additional information on Buchterkirch, whose story had piqued his curiosity. In doing so he came upon a passport application from November, 1916 that cited Buchterkirch’s intent to leave the country the following month. He also uncovered ship’s passenger manifests from previous years showing the artist’s transit from Nassau (the Bahamas) to and from New York, including a manifest from April, 1916 from the S.S. Morro, “Castle of the Ward” Line, listing Buchterkirch and his wife Harriet as being amongst the passengers traveling from Nassau. The passport application and the Morro’s manifest were in direct conflict with other sources known to Atherholt (and which remain in the public record), which stated and cited a 1915 newspaper obituary whose subject was Buchterkirch. (A telephone call placed by Atherholt to the Rochester public library “confirmed” Buchterkirch’s death to be 1919.) In addition to this crucial discrepancy regarding the date of the artist’s death, the passport application revealed that Buchterkirch had traveled to the Bahamas for the previous 16 winters, meaning that since about 1900 he had been visiting there annually, whereas earlier information obtained by Atherholt had only mentioned the Caribbean and Bermuda. The result of Atherholt’s efforts was to not only shed light on the extent of Buchterkirch’s intimate relationship to the Bahamas in contrast to the other Caribbean isles, but may ultimately serve to enhance the upward trajectory of Buchterkirch’s posthumous reputation based upon the possibility of his having visited (and painted upon) the island of Bermuda, though no definitive reference to that effect has yet to be established in the public record, nor has any Bermuda-related Work of Art yet to surface. Atherholt has also proven that Buchterkirch had a professional and personal connection with Daytona Beach, Florida, citing an article in the Daytona Gazette-News from 1901 that states “the well-known artist of Rochester is again greeting his Daytona friends.”
From 1882 to 1902, a period encompassing a considerable portion of his career, Buchterkirch exhibited his work at the Rochester Art Club, of which he was a key member. Today, examples of his work can be found in the permanent collections of several major museums, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. and the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, as well as a growing number of prominent private collections. The value of his work continues to escalate with the passage of time: at a recent auction held at Christie’s of London, his watercolor Nassau, Bahamas sold for nearly eight (8) times the previously estimated high price.
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